COVID-19 pandemic leaves lasting effect on P-CEP Marching Band


Jon Mulawa

Members of the Plymouth-Canton Marching Band stand six-feet apart during rehearsals while wearing masks to prevent COVID-19. August 6, 2020.

The day was Friday, March 13, 2020, when the overhead speakers turned on with the announcement of a two-week break from school due to a sudden pandemic. Two weeks turned into two months, and eventually evolved into a full year. 

Many activities and clubs still feel the effects of this sudden quarantine, with one of these clubs being the 27-time State Champion, the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park (P-CEP) Marching Band.

The P-CEP Marching Band continues to feel the effects of COVID-19, years after quarantine ended. From seniors graduating in spring 2023, to the freshmen class of 2027, the P-CEP Marching Band needed to adjust to the lasting impacts.

COVID has affected the P-CEP Marching Band in several ways. Head band director Michael Wells says one of the most devastating effects was the drop of members. 

“I think, initially. It was people not feeling comfortable being part of band because things weren’t figured out as far as what is safe and what’s not,” said Wells. “And so the easiest decision was, okay, well, let’s not do this.” 

For many, the enjoyment in music and playing instruments starts with elementary school. In the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, students learn how to play the recorder in fifth grade, which allows for students to explore music and develop the love for playing.

Middle school is where students learn to play unique instruments and where kids can connect with fellow members to create friend groups. This is where many students, such as Ryan Gilliland, Canton senior, found the inspiration to join the marching band. Gilliland played with the concert band at Discovery Middle School for all three years when he heard about the marching band.

 “I was in the concert band, and marching band had seemed like a fun thing to do on the side,” said Gilliland.

Sixth grade is when students learn how to play the instruments, and when many discover the real enjoyment of band. When the students were trying to learn how to play instruments over Zoom, many didn’t get exposed to these feelings.

“If I’m someone that’s trying to learn an instrument, it’s really hard if you’re trying to do that over Zoom,” said Wells. “So, really, it was multiple ways that our numbers were affected, and until those sixth graders are fully graduated, we’ll still continue to see the effects.”

It wasn’t just the middle schoolers that had developed an issue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even the band directors had to abide by the guidelines and ensure the safety of their students in rehearsals. 

“We would have to rehearse with everything separate [and] everything spread out. We would do a lot of separate rehearsals,” said Wells.

Many band directors faced their hardest times of teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It became extremely difficult for them to find rehearsals that would allow for everyone to be comfortable, yet safe.  

“We had one or two ways to do it; in person, but it was socially distanced, or on Zoom. The Zoom ones were probably the hardest thing to teach in my career personally, because it’s hard to do band on Zoom,“ says assistant director and woodwind specialist Andrew Raven.

With the changes to the program due to safety guidelines, many people decided it would be better to quit marching band.

However, not only did the number of members in the marching band decrease, but the overall rehearsal format changed as well. 

“[Rehearsals are] a lot less strict. The focus definitely changed from winning to having fun, which I do like. But it’s also very different,” said Nolan Williams, Plymouth senior. “As someone who’s seen both sides, there’s a very big contrast with the amount of dedication in the members. And I do feel like some of that is because of COVID-19.”

Not everything was drastically affected, though. According to Williams, the P-CEP Marching Band committed to long rehearsals both before and after COVID-19. 

“I felt the 12-hour rehearsals were a little more relaxed than [during] freshman year, but it was still a 12-hour rehearsal,” said Williams. “We still came in with the purpose of getting stuff done.”

Even though the Plymouth-Canton Marching Band has felt the effects of COVID-19, they still pushed through and placed as semi-finalist at the Grand Nationals Championship in 2022. The marching band is now preparing for their 2023-24 season, and you can catch their members rehearsing outside Plymouth High School later this summer.